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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Learning to be content

It will take you from 'wanting more' to 'easy-breathing wisdom'

Discontent is woven into the fabric of our daily life. We eat breakfast and wonder why our usual cereal tastes bland. Driving to work, we find our attention drifting to the houses that seem nicer than our own or the beautiful vacation spots advertised on billboards.

Photodisc At the office, we listen jealously as a co-worker talks about weekend adventures after we just spent one doing errands. At lunch we go into a store and watch a super-duper TV set we can’t afford. In the afternoon, we hear about someone’s promotion and get upset that we aren’t moving ahead in our careers. By the time we get home again, a dark cloud of accumulated resentments and regrets has overtaken us.

Our consumer culture with its omnipresent advertising pitches is designed to make us always want something more, better or different. Even in times of national emergency, we are told to go out and shop—as if that will make us feel better.

Yet religious leaders have long advised just the opposite. Quaker William Penn observed: “Seek not to be rich, but happy. Riches lie in bags, happiness in contentment.”


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